By Emma Woodham for The Island Eye News
Mayor Dick Cronin opened the October City Council meeting by announcing that Isle of Palms has been voted the Charleston Choice Best Family Beach for 2017. He then opened the floor to citizens’ comments. First to speak was John Dodds, representative for Barrier Isles, LLC doing business as Morgan Creek Grill. Though Morgan Creek Grill failed to give proper notice to renew its lease, Dodds reminded council that Morgan Creek has been faithful tenants. He also noted that Morgan Creek needs and hopes to keep the dock spaces that have previously been included in the terms of their lease.
Several other residents spoke, many of them supporting Morgan Creek Grill and expressing concerns regarding the proposed plan for updating the Isle of Palms Marina. Many residents are frustrated by how crowded the marina gets with non-island residents, and they are seeking a guarantee that more residents will be able to utilize the marina facilities.
Ralph Martino, who resides on Waterway Island Dr., stated that he has been a neighbor of Morgan Creek Grill and the IOP Marina for many years and has always found them to be great neighbors. Martino said he trusts the city council to devise and implement the best plan possible for the proposed marina updates. Randy Bell, who has expressed his concerns regarding this project to the council on previous occasions, stated once again that he thinks the financial aspect of this project needs to be seriously considered. Bell says he will not support the referendum.
Other residents called for more focus to be put on the drainage issues that continue to plague the island. One resident asked why so much money was being spent on revamping the exercise room at the Rec Center when the money could be better used. Others were in favor the improvements to the exercise room but opposed to the beach re-nourishment, stating that the expensive project was not solving a problem but fighting nature. It was also suggested that since the residents of Sullivan’s Island may need a Rec Center, perhaps the two towns could work together to help split the costs.
Following the citizens’ comments, Kirby Marshall of Applied Technology & Management presented the most recently-updated version of the plans for the Isle of Palms Marina. He believes that this plan is the culmination of two years’ worth of studying, planning, and consideration of residents’ needs. He stated that the plan has ample parking for boats and trailers, golf carts, and even bicycles. Marshall says that the golf cart parking areas will benefit residents because most visitors to the island do not bring golf carts. Marshall also acknowledged that there will be some decrease in the linear space of the docks, but insists the new docks will be much more usable than the existing.
Drainage is also an area of concern the designers have focused on, and part of the plan includes an eco-friendly collection system for storm water. Councilmember Sandy Ferencz expressed her concern about the gas pumps being so close to Morgan Creek and is worried that runoff will reach the water. Marshall assured her that the planning team is working closely with civil engineers to make sure that the sloping of the project prevents runoff into Morgan Creek.
Councilmember Ted Kinghorn thanked all those who have worked on this project and thinks that, after two years, it’s time to move forward with the plan. A motion was made to approve the plan, and the motion passed.
Councilmember Ferencz brought up the topic of a recent mailer that was sent to the residents of the island, detailing the plan for the new marina. Ferencz stated that she received numerous phone calls from citizens who felt that the material was proreferendum and endorsed by the council. Councilmember Barbara Bergwerf insisted that the information was merely a presentation of the facts.
Ferencz asked why the mailer was not signed by the city, and the mayor pointed out that the mailing was not a letter but informational.
During a review of the Personnel Committee meeting, Councilmember Patrick Harrington revisited the topic of a Code of Conduct for members of the council. The issue was previously discussed in the August meeting, and since that time, a city attorney has drawn up a potential Code of Conduct that is based on similar guidelines from the State of South Carolina and the cities of Mt. Pleasant, Columbia, and Myrtle Beach. It was determined that the proposed document should be reviewed before any decision is made.
Councilmember Ferencz said she believes that the terminology of the proposed code is vague.
She also feels that the entire idea won’t change the behavior of any members and that it’s offensive to some members of the council. Councilmember Kinghorn added that anything that can be done to raise the ethical standards for elected officials is a positive move, but he would like for the city’s HR department to review the document.
During a review of the Ways & Means meeting, the issue of drainage on the island was brought up again. It was noted that the Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over much of the roadways, which makes it complicated when the city wants to get involved. Councilmember Jimmy Carroll stated he doesn’t think the city should be spending money on frivolous things— such as the $34,500 allotted for retractable basketball goals at the Rec Center—when it’s clear that more funds need to be dedicated to fixing the ongoing drainage issues on the island. Councilmember Carol Rice reminded Carroll that the basketball goals are a budgeted item. Ultimately, the motion to approve the funds for the basketball goals was approved.
The Real Property meeting was reviewed, and Councilmember Jimmy Ward said he was unhappy with Morgan Creek Grill’s dock spaces being taken away. He feels that the restaurant is being punished for failing to make the city aware of its intent to renew its lease. Councilmember Bergwerf insisted that the docks spaces are underutilized by restaurant patrons, but Councilmember Ferencz agreed with Ward stating she does not care for the way that the situation was handled because of the perception it creates to the public. A motion was made to approve the extension of Morgan Creek Grill’s lease without the existing dock spaces and the motion passed.
The next meeting of the Isle of Palms City Council is on Tuesday, October 24.